Cottonwood football heads into the season with just as many players, but tons of promiseAug 07, 2022 08:24PM ● By Brian Shaw
By Brian Shaw | [email protected]
With only 25 players on varsity, the same number as it had last season, the Cottonwood High football team will head into another year as an independent.
The Colts may be in their last year under that distinction in football, but that is something that head coach Casey Miller said he wasn’t sure about.
For Miller, who is now in his sixth year at the helm, this year is about taking the giant leap forward that he envisioned could happen for the program when he took it over after Bart Bowen resigned.
“We are really trying to get that elusive fifth win and be the first [Cottonwood football team to have a non-losing season in a decade,” said Miller, who will return some key players this season.
The kicker, added the Cottonwood coach, is that all 25 of his varsity players will have to play both ways, offense and defense in 2022.
Those will include senior quarterback/defensive back Brock Simpson, who was only a freshman when he was taking licks from hulking defensive linemen when the Colts were in Class 5A and were losing by 60 points or more by halftime. Simpson, who has thrown for 3,416 yards in his four years here, threw for over half that last year [2,048 passing yards, 13 TDs, 12 INT] for Cottonwood.
Another player who will be key for the Colts is their versatile running back and linebacker Sterling Wilson. He ran for a good chunk of yardage last year and also had 41 tackles on defense.
Where Cottonwood could really do some damage though is out on the flanks. Senior Nick Bean headlines a talented receiving corps. His 665 yards led all Colts receivers last year. Bean also hauled in three receiving touchdowns and ran back a pick six on defense. Along with Bean returning to feature for Cottonwood, senior Lincoln Martinez was also a deep threat last season, hauling in three touchdowns on 195 receiving yards.
But they’re not all that the Colts have coming back at wide receiver this season. They also bring back Kaelen Gray and his 495 receiving yards and team-leading four TD grabs from 2021 as well as Roman Caywood. Each is in their third season of playing football at Cottonwood.
The area that could be problematic for a Cottonwood team looking for five wins on the season for the first time in over 10 years is smack dab, front and center, on the offensive line. That’s where Miller said their biggest and one of their most talented guys was lost for the season—but not to an injury.
“We are going to just be inexperienced,” added Miller when talking about his offensive line. “Lost our biggest returning player [300-pounder] to grades, so he won't be playing.”
In addition, the Colts football program was hurt even more by several other kids not making grades, and ended up losing four total the previous semester, which in Miller’s view kills a program that only has 25 to 30 varsity players to begin with.
Miller said he envisions his offensive and defensive lines to start two seniors, one junior and one sophomore with just one having had any varsity experience—but with a touch of the bad news comes some that is good. For the first time in his six years at Cottonwood, Miller doesn’t foresee having to play any ninth-graders on the varsity.
“We shouldn't have to dress any freshman this year unless something drastic happens,” Miller said, who mentioned before this article went to print that he will be forced to train several upperclassmen who are new to the sport of football in the two weeks of team practices leading up to the Colts home and season opener against Summit Academy Aug. 12.
Cottonwood will round out the month of August with games at Richfield [Aug. 19], and will return home to face Providence Hall Aug. 26. We’ll have recaps of all three games and reactions in the next edition of the Journal.
All in all, added Miller, the team had a good summer camp that began July 12 and they got out of the two-a-days with no injuries—important for a team dressing just 25 players on varsity. The boys also did what they were asked to do in the offseason, and Miller believes that could very well equate to a season unlike any other in recent memory.
“Kids have been working hard in the weight room and are as strong as we have been,” he said. “We have lots of experience returning, and the spirit of the team is as high as it has been in my six years.”